With more than 30,000 people, including more than 90 heads of state, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the United Nations’ COP27 climate conference, the meetings and events industry made perhaps its biggest public splash on the issue of making events sustainable.
Launched in August 2021, the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative is the events industry’s global campaign to help organizations achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This past Thursday, November 11—known as International Decarbonization Day among climate activists—COP27 representatives Miguel Alejandro Naranjo Gonzalez and Ina Parvanova welcomed and congratulated a group of meetings-industry representatives for delivering the Net Zero Carbon Events Roadmap to the conference less than 15 months after the initiative was launched.
As of now, the campaign features at least 270 signatories and 130 other supporters, ranging from meeting and exhibition organizers to venues to event-services suppliers to transportation companies. The signatories have pledged to reduce event-related greenhouse-gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. By comparison, in the first month after the initiative launched in 2021, exactly 21 organizations were signatories or supporters.
The result is a document, created collaboratively, that presents a framework of policies and actions that can help industry stakeholders to eventually meet the net-zero goal; it provides a path for individual organizations as well as industry-wide action areas. The document’s action areas have identified where collective efforts are needed, along with ways to measure and evaluate progress for individual meetings. Organizations can register to use the roadmap for analysis of their own events, but users are asked to make a financial contribution.
James Rees, president of the Joint Meetings Industry Council, which is coordinating the net-zero initiative around the world, told the COP27 representatives that JMIC was proud to be the unifying body for the events industry’s initiative to stop contributing to climate change. Helen Sheppard, head of sustainability at RX, an early signatory to the initiative, added that the roadmap “prompts us to question how we do business—from the big, such as delegate travel, to the small, such as badging for events. Education is key to supporting the changes we need to implement” in the meetings and exhibitions industry.
Right now, there are two versions of the roadmap: a detailed document of more than 80 pages with comprehensive information on how to achieve net zero, and a 20-page executive summary. For Phase 3 of the campaign, soon to be underway, eight workstreams have been identified and 42 representatives from 32 organizations have registered to participate.
Putting the effort into perspective, Kai Hattendorf, CEO of UFI and a JMIC board member, said that “this is the biggest, most inclusive action ever from our industry. At COP26 we just got started, with our pledge and a huge amount of momentum. Now, at COP27, we’re launching the roadmap. And by COP28 [in November 2023], we will have models for implementation and successful pilots to announce and share. We will also have companies beginning to report their progress.”